As a giant, translucent color-changing orb slowly descended
from the rafters, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros took the stage to a
raucous Riverside Theater ovation Saturday night. And even in the midst of the
clown car-like entrance of a dozen band members flooding the stage, there was
no doubt from the start who the star of this show was.
Mr. Sharpe (aka Alex Ebert) is an intriguing figure to say
the least. Fully bearded with long, straggly brown hair, it’s difficult to
ignore the spiritual aura beaming from the man (the Edward Sharpe character was
born of Ebert’s messianic book character of the same name). Sharpe, donning a
white sport coat and loose-fitting shirt and pants with one leg rolled up, made
a b-line directly to the front row where he began touching his disciples’ hands
before the first note was played.
The crowd began dancing the moment the band launched into
song, as if instructed by a higher power. Maybe it was Sharpe’s irresistible on
stage charisma (or the contact buzz of hundreds of one-hitters sparking in
unison), but it became very difficult to not at least tap your feet along to
the infectious beat.
The band kept the elated, danceable vibe going throughout
the set, faithfully reproducing crowd favorite after crowd favorite, including “40
Day Dream,” “Janglin” and “Up From Below.” When Sharpe wasn’t touching the
crowd (both spiritually and physically), he was singing and dancing with his
female counterpart Jade Castrinos. For all of the pomp and showmanship Sharpe
puts on full display, Castrinos is his elegantly subdued counterweight, letting
her gorgeous voice do the work. It is a fascinating give-and-take that added an
element of tension, especially on songs like “Fiya Wata” and the band’s
breakout hit, “Home.”
Though the set seemed to languish in jam band limbo at
times, the strength of the individual players and overall songwriting carried
the day. And as the charismatic lead singer sat on a monitor between several
songs and conversationally took requests directly from the eager audience, the
bond between Sharpe and his minions came into sharp focus.